April is a busy time in the vegetable garden

Phyl Boyce


Phyl Boyce

April is a busy time in the vegetable garden

Brunnera is a perennial grown for its flowers and ground covering foliage. There is always a place in the garden for this tough plant that will thrive in the deep shade found under evergreen trees or shrubs, where it will quickly form a weed suppressing mat of round leaves. Shade is ideal for brunneras as their broad leaves can be scorched by cold winds or too much sun.

After the leaves have covered the ground, delicate sprays of intense blue flowers appear and will last for weeks until the onset of summer. Brunneras will set seed and grow into new plants that may need weeding out if they are growing in the wrong place, deadheading will prevent this. Brunneras like a moderately fertile, humus rich, moist but well drained soil, in a shady position.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Hadspen Cream’ is a lovely variety which has pale green leaves with creamy white leaf margins. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ forms a neat clump of rounded, frosty looking silver leaves and is topped with tiny clusters of clear blue flowers in early spring. It looks very nice planted beside water or in a woodland setting. This plant was recently voted the best ‘New Perennial of the Year’ in Holland.

Brunneras are virtually maintenance free, but clumps can be rejuvenated for the summer if the whole plant is cut to the ground. Fresh foliage will soon emerge along with an occasional show of late flowers.

Bulb of the week

The erythroniums (Dog’s tooth violets), with their charming, lily like flowers and mottled leaves are one of the most desirable of all bulbs at this time of the year. There is a great similarity in appearance between the canine teeth of dogs and the shape of the bulb, hence the common name dog’s tooth violet. Erythroniums are low growing plants, usually between 4 and 12 inches in height, with just two broad leaves at ground level from which emerges a leafless stem. From February to April they produce pendant flowers in shades of white, yellow, pink and various shades of purple. The leaves may be plain green or beautifully mottled.

The erythroniums do best in dapple shade beneath deciduous trees or shrubs. They like a well drained soil with lots of humus added. Bulbs should be planted, pointed end upwards, in the autumn at a depth of 4 inches. When you buy bulbs, do not leave them in a bag where they can dry out, plant them as fresh as possible. After some years it may be necessary to dig up dense clumps and divide them, late summer or early autumn is the best time to do this before the new roots are produced.

Vegetable Garden

April is a busy time in the vegetable garden, soil temperatures have increased so seeds will germinate quickly. Plant onion sets leaving about half of the bulb exposed. If the soil is hard, loosen it up to prevent the emerging roots pushing the bulbs out of the ground. Birds have a habit of pulling out the bulbs, so cover them with a plastic mesh or fleese. Make early outdoor sowings of salad vegetables such as spring onions, lettuce and beetroot. Sow carrot seeds thinly in rows and cover with horticulturists fleese to prevent the carrot fly attacking the young plants. When the soil is dry, rake over the surface and cover the area with polythene for a week before sowing. This will warm up the soil and get seeds off to a good start. If you have grown lettuce or cabbage seeds in a greenhouse or window sill, harden them off before planting out.

Most vegetables, especially the brassicas, will benefit from lots of well rotted manure or compost dug into the soil. To avoid diseases and pests vegetables must be sown in different parts of the garden each year. Rotation is very important for the brassicas which should be planted in a different site each year so that they only occupy the same spot once every four years to avoid clubroot. Only plant a small number of plants now and more later so that they do not all mature at the same time.

The heavy snow and cold weather disrupted a lot of peoples pruning of fruit trees including my own, I glad that Tom Giltenan was able to carry out some great pruning to my apple trees last week.